CHIEFS NOTES: Offensive Line Needs to Step Up

The Chiefs would like to believe that with their highly regarded offensive line, any back they throw at the Saints can be effective. They'll find out Sunday if that theory is true.

"It's up to all of us to pick it up now," OG Brian Waters said. "As an offensive line, we have to learn more about the strengths (of the replacements). We've had the luxury of blocking for Priest (Holmes), but now we have to see how the new guys run. We'll run the same plays we ran for Priest, but we'll learn how different people run them. We'll have to make the tough adjustment, but that's part of being a professional. We're not the first team to deal with the loss of a star player."

Coach Dick Vermeil, in fact, has visions of a "Star is Born" scenario involving either Derrick Blaylock or Larry Johnson.

"I've seen it happen. I've seen guys step up from their role as a backup and ascend to the point that the starting player doesn't get his job back," Vermeil said, sounding more hopeful than convinced.

"There's nothing like a young player getting a chance to show what he can do under the gun."

Kansas City has had problems playing without Priest but they'll have to this Sunday.

In December 2002, after Holmes went down with a hip injury in Week 14 at Denver, the Chiefs went 1-1 in finishing an 8-8 campaign. They edged out a 24-22 home win over San Diego in the first game during which replacement Mike Cloud ran for only 19 yards. But they were shut out 24-0 in the season finale at Oakland when they managed a season low 44 rushing yards.

CHIEFS BY THE NUMBERS:
38.5 - Kansas City's scoring average in its last two visits to the Superdome, 1985 and '94, when they won 47-27 and 30-17.

9-2 - Dick Vermeil's career record against the Saints. 130 -- The point total of KC's supposedly awful defense after eight games last year.

211 - The points given up by the Chiefs' supposedly improved defense at the midpoint this year.

29.6 - KC's average point total this season.

1-14 - New Orleans record in regular-season games this century when an opponent scores 30-plus points.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"He was rusty. He missed two reads that might have helped him score, but he's not used to running down there in those situations. As he gets more carries in live situations, he'll grow, because nothing you do in practice (matches) the tempo of game day." -- Dick Vermeil, on Larry Johnson's failure to score on two tries from the 1 in the loss at Tampa Bay.

CHIEFS PERSONNEL NEWS:
LB Shawn Barber, a seven-year pro who was second on the Chiefs in tackles last year in his first season in Kansas City, will need reconstructive surgery to repair a knee that was injured in the Tampa Bay loss last Sunday. He was placed on the injured reserve list Wednesday.

RB Priest Holmes, who most likely will miss Sunday's game in New Orleans, is hopeful that his strained MCL will heal on its own after a couple weeks down. But Holmes, who has undergone two major knee surgeries in college and the NFL, also holds out a worst-case scenario. "If after I rest and the knee still doesn't feel right, then it's something where we would have to explore surgery." LB Quinton Caver, a former second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, is expected to make his first NFL start Sunday in New Orleans at the right outside linebacker spot opened by the season-ending knee injury to Shawn Barber. Caver, who has played almost exclusively on special teams, may not be a starter long. The Chiefs are considering moving MLB Monty Beisel, who began the season vying for the left outside position, to the right side. LB Rich Scanlon has been promoted from the practice squad to fill the roster spot created by the season-ending knee injury to Shawn Barber. Scanlon was an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse when the Chiefs signed him. TE Kris Wilson, the team's second-round draft who hasn't played since breaking his leg in the preseason finale, did some individual workouts with the team for the first time Wednesday. However, Wilson is probably at least two or three weeks away from being game ready.

GAME PLAN: - Without Holmes, the Chiefs won't have the luxury of a proven running game to build on. They'll try to establish one anyway with Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson. Blaylock might be more effective as a receiver out of the backfield while Johnson is more of a traditional runner. The premium goes on the passing game this year, which might be more difficult with the Saints keeping both safeties back when they don't fear the Chiefs running game.

Defensively, the Chiefs have to keep Deuce McAllister in check in order to keep a double-edged sword out of the hands of Aaron Brooks. KC corners will have to get more safety help in dealing with Joe Horn.

MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
Chiefs LT Willie Roaf vs. Saints DE Darren Howard. Willie Roaf wants to show his former fans in New Orleans that he's still got it two years after seeking the trade that got him out of the Bayou. Howard will give the venerated future Hall of Famer as good a test as he's had this year.

Saints WR Joe Horn vs. Chiefs CB Eric Warfield. The two worked against each other in practices for two years. Both have improved considerably since those early days in their careers.

INJURY IMPACT:
RB Priest Holmes, listed as doubtful, isn't expected to play against New Orleans after straining his right MCL against Tampa Bay.

RB Derrick Blaylock (questionable), after missing the Tampa Bay loss with a thigh injury, did a full workout Wednesday and appears ready to start for the injured Priest Holmes.

CB Dexter McCleon (questionable, hamstring) was expected to return to the practice field Thursday after missing KC's last two games.

LB Monty Beisel (questionable, calf) returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last two games with a calf injury. He will back up Kawika Mitchell at MLB while learning the ROB position vacated by the season-ending knee injury to Shawn Barber.

DE Vonnie Holliday (questionable, abdomen) missed practice Wednesday but has received medical clearance to return to practice Thursday.

TE Jason Dunn (questionable, back) has been battling back spasms that first flared up the day before last week's Tampa Bay game. He didn't practice Wednesday, but hopes to go Thursday.

DT Junior Siavii (questionable, ankle) returned to practice Wednesday after missing the past two games.


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